Holistic Centre for Body, Mind & Spirit

1 October 2013

Case study – Ben

All of the case studies you will read here are the experiences of real Anam Cara clients. They have asked for their names not to be used to protect their privacy but all of them wanted others to know that problems can be overcome, whatever they are.


I was at rock bottom by the time I walked through the door of Anam Cara. Physically and psychologically, I was in such pain that I went simply out of desperation. I didn’t know what else to do. I just couldn’t cope any more.

I’m in my fifties now but I started having problems with my back while I was still in my teens after I fell off a horse. I didn’t do anything much about it, apart from painkillers in the immediate aftermath, until I was around 20. The spasms and the pain were intermittent but as they became worse, I did try acupuncture and other therapies but to no real effect.

In fact I put up with it until about eight years ago – a long 25 years. It was then that I first got stuck on the settee and had to have an ambulance come to help me up. I could not move until they gave me some gas and air. I was advised to take painkillers.

I then had about a year where I used to get about two hours sleep at a time, waking up in agony after two hours and having to walk around for two to three hours until I was almost asleep on my feet. Then I’d lie down for another two hours...

When I got stuck again and the hospital wanted to release me with the advice to take painkillers, I refused to go until I was seen by a specialist. By this time, my right leg was also causing me enormous pain and I could barely move it. The consultant who saw me said it was just wear and tear, but at least he arranged for me to see a physio.

I saw two physios who both gave me exercises to do and finally saw a third physio who said to me, “Why are you doing these exercises? You’ve got a bad back.” By this time, my leg was numb, I’d lost all the muscle off my calf and I couldn’t lift my heel off the floor. The physio helped to free my back up and I started to exercise again carefully, making myself use my right leg even though it was very difficult.

I finished with the physio more than five years ago and have been just putting up with the pain since then. Several times a year, I seize up and I’ll be stuck for four or five days. But recently it started to get even worse and started to affect me not only physically but psychologically.

I started to get into a frame of mind where my back dictated everything I did – or didn’t do. I would tell myself that I couldn’t do things or couldn’t go to places in case my back seized up; and the less I went out, the more these fears escalated. In October last year, I went to visit my family and had major panics about it, which lasted all day. It was awful. After that, even popping to the shops or going to work became a huge ordeal. Any time I was away from home, I was in a complete panic.

My GP recommended some tablets to ‘calm the nerves in my back’ and prevent the problems occurring again rather than just treating them when they did. This seemed logical so I took the tablets but they made me feel terrible – headaches, bloating, sexual dysfunction and more. After a week, I researched the tablets and discovered they were anti-depressants. My doctor had never mentioned this to me.

This was a low moment. It was at this point that my partner said there were people at his work who had been to a holistic therapy centre and had great results and it might be worth a try. So I called Anam Cara.

A new way

Whereas I’d always felt like the NHS saw me as simply a statistic they wanted off their records, it was completely different from the moment I walked into Anam Cara. The place itself is relaxing and to have someone actually listen to what I was saying was a very positive experience.

I saw Sonia to begin with, who recommended I had sessions with her in order to deal with the psychological issues I had developed, and also sessions with Anam Cara’s CHEK (Corrective Holistic Exercise Kinesiology) specialist to deal with the physical problems of my back and leg. She believed that until we sorted the psychological issues, they would remain like a weight on my back, making it impossible for me to physically recover.

Working with Sonia was remarkable, not least because I’ve never really talked to anyone about myself as a child but I found myself opening up to her almost immediately. I was a gay kid growing up in the seventies, which was not easy and many of the tensions of that period remained. I feel we’ve really been dealing with those old tensions and no matter how bad I may feel as I walk into Anam Cara, I always feel better on the way out.

When I first went to see the CHEK practitioner, I felt terrible. I was so nervous I could have thrown up. He told me it was going to be tough work because my back was so unstable. In fact his first action was to tape my back in the right position so it did not move and it could rest and recover. A couple of days later he gave me some exercises to do at home. We did them in the session first but again I felt physically sick at the idea of doing them on my own, and repeatedly, at home. I really was scared of putting my back into spasm again and being unable to move for a week. However, I did the exercises, felt ok, and did them again the next day. And so I continued, each time doing a little bit more.

The practitioner taught me how to do very basic movements all over again. My body had been changing and compensating for my injuries to such an extent that I had to relearn something as simple as how to lift my leg properly. I was using the wrong muscles, which were firing in the wrong order. Anam Cara’s practitioner is incredibly precise and methodical, even using a gauge to measure how I should be doing certain exercises without straining – it’s fascinating.

He also knew how challenging this work was to me mentally, especially at the beginning. One time, I had been worrying all week about moving on to a new stage of exercises and I was in a real state by the time I got to my appointment with him. That week, we just sat and talked.

Most recently, Sonia advised me to do some work with another of Anam Cara’s practitioners, who specialises in Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT, or ‘Tapping’), which helps to release stuck emotions. The work with the EFT practitioner has made me realise that the relationship with my father, which I’d always dismissed as unimportant and irrelevant in my life, has actually affected me in many ways, and that many of the problems I’d associated with being a gay teenager were perhaps more complicated than that alone. It has been a challenging process but I see light at the end of the tunnel where this work is taking me.

I have been going to Anam Cara for about five months now and it has given me an awful lot to think about but I’m feeling more confident, more comfortable, stronger, more energetic, more resilient, on top of things. I am turning my life around. At last I’m thinking of the future.